Spring Meeting Part 1

            Highlights of the 2019 Spring NCSBA Conference in Monroe, NC

This event had a simpler schedule than last spring, with all the talks located in the main auditorium. This had the advantage of the attendees more easily hearing all the speakers.

The vendor areas opened early each morning and remained open throughout the event, except for the bee bowl, but I will go over the vendor and product highlights in another blog.

Morning Day 1:  Paul Newbold, NCSBA President announced upcoming events to start the day. Quickly approaching events include testing on April 27 at both Newbern and Morganton. Then the summer convention in Hickory, NC August 8, 9, and 10. The EAS will be holding its summer convention in nearby Greenville, SC in June. This is a 22 state organization, and so having the event this close is special.

The first guest speaker to the platform was Jay Heselschwerdt, a state bee inspector for Tennessee. Jay’s topic was “To Feed or Not to Feed Your Bees.” The statistics for his beehive survival rate are impressive. He attributes that to the good health of his bees, which he believes is because he does not feed his bees. While he does take honey from his hives, he skips taking honey from some hive some years. He leaves as much area of honey on each hive as he leaves brood boxes on in winter. In a dearth year, he does not take honey.

He harvests his honey in the spring, and if it is less in quantity, then he gets a higher price for it. The bees multiply better in spring having their honey in the winter because honey is the perfect food for bees. It contains nutrients that sugar water and supplements lack. The benefits to him as a beekeeper are he never buys supplements, sugar, or feeders for his regular hives.

Jay had quite a few good tips for the audience like using old comb in swarm traps. And stop buying bees from the same place if they die every year. Find genetically better bees. Find local bees if possible. If you use sugar water, do use a supplement like Honey Bee Healthy along with apple cider vinegar. Never take honey off a split! Wait a year and let it build up — only feed sugar water to pull out new comb.

Also, a really good tip he shared was - when you think you have a good new idea or product, only try it in a few hives the first year and see how it works out.
The second speaker was Freddy Proni, DBA who spoke on the topic “Return from the Almonds 2019”. I missed this discourse.

Next up was Katie Lee, Ph.D. who discussed “Honey Bee Health Metrics.” She discussed the following metrics to observe in your hives: status of queen, characteristics of brood, is there a laying worker or has the queen become a drone layer? Count frames of bees, but check from the bottom of the box to see if the bees are really all over the frames, or just up on top. You can use an infrared camera to see how spread out your colony is in the hive. What is the brood pattern and is it expected due to the age of the queen or the time of year?  A very important metric is the health of the bees, are there diseases or pests in the hive? The alcohol test is the best for a good mite count. Katie stressed that mite control is vital year round. Keep the mites low even in spring! Definitive signs of mites in the hive greatly reduce the odds of the hive having enough bees to survive to the next year.

The afternoon started with “NCSU Updates” by David Tarpy Ph.D. He mentioned some research and papers from Insects Magazine that beekeepers may wish to look up. He explained some plans for the BEES Academy. He made the interesting point that we need to focus on better beekeepers, rather than more beekeepers. Quality is more important than quantity, and his office is willing to help local beekeeping clubs with that goal.

While having 25 speakers, his office still cannot visit each club when they have a date available. But to increase access, they may try remote access or recorded webinars. We need to let his office know what type of training or assistance we need. In the future, he hopes there will be queen and disease clinics and drone testing for mating qualities.
The second speaker in the afternoon was Lewis Cauble, NCDA&CS Apiary Inspector, with the timely topic of “Observed Incorrect Miticides Applications.”  He noted that data from sources such as Bee Informed and Backyard Beekeeping could make the treatment seem of little consequence, but we should not draw those type of conclusions from that data. Why? Lack of consistency in the use of treatments, some do not use up-to-date treatments, some do not use them properly, and many may not be monitored frequently enough.

He referred the audience to the Honey Bee Health Coalition Tool for Varroa Management, which is updated quarterly. It would be wise to monitor up to 7 times per year, keep current on threshold levels, and proper treatments based on your hive conditions, the weather, and other factors as absolute minimum testing should be done four times a year, even if you do not notice signs of Varroa.  From his experience in the field, he suspects that those who follow best practice management can expect 8% losses, while those who do not will suffer nearer 50%.  He then went through some current treatments and tips for proper use of them.


The talk ended with a goal of 8% losses for beekeepers through planning for effective mite management and then implementing it faithfully.  A few references he listed were KeepBeesAlive.org, and the Field Guide to Honey Bees in PDF format with photos and descriptions.

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